University of Michigan president Lee C. Bollinger reaffirmed April 19 his commitment to the creation of The Arthur Miller Theatre on the campus of U-M in Ann Arbor, where the student Miller wrote plays and won a Hopwood (Playwriting) Award in 1936.
Miller, who graduated U-M with a bachelor's degree in 1938, would go on to international success as a playwright, penning All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, The Price, A View From the Bridge and more, in a career that continues today with The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, which recently opened on Broadway.
Three years ago, Bollinger, the new U-M president with a passion for arts and humanities, fostered the idea of a playhouse named for U-M's most famous stage scribe. Miller, who has been asked many times to allow his name to be used on theaters, finally gave into Bollinger's request due to old school ties.
A proposal for a 600-seat theatre has been drawn up and is being studied by the U-M Board of Regents, who may approve the plan in its May meeting. Depending on business on the board agenda, the regents may table the proposal until June, a U-M spokesperson told Playbill On-Line.
The plan includes a proposed location, alongside the Power Center for the Performing Arts, site of student and touring productions. The location would allow for the new theatre to have access to the Power Center's scene shop. If approved, the new theatre would accommodate student productions and perhaps a resident professional company, a spokesperson said. There have been several attempts over the years for U-M to have a resident Equity troupe on campus, but the efforts were short-lived. In Ann Arbor, the Performance Network uses a limited Equity contract, but there is not a major resident professional company in that major university town.
President Bollinger said the theatre would be built with money raised through private gifts, but if donations did not come in, he said the university has a reserve of gift money that could be tapped. Money from the university's general fund would not be used.
The Ann Arbor News reported the project may cost $15 million.
There has been "a lot of discussion" over the past three years, said a spokesperson. Although there is no official announcement yet, Bollinger's "verbal commitment" to the project and the fact that money seems to be in place makes observers think the theatre will be a reality.
Miller will be on the U-M campus Oct. 27-29 for "The Arthur Miller International Symposium," which will deal with Miller works "as they have been accepted or not accepted" throughout the world, from Beijing to South Africa to New York City.
-- By Kenneth Jones